UFC Fight Night: Dern vs. Rodriguez
UFC Fight Night: Dern vs Rodriguez

UPDATE:

We are down to 9 fights now after Deron Winn had to withdraw due to health related issues. Chris Curtis was set to replace Winn against Phil Hawes and even weighed in earlier today, but Hawes refused to take the short notice fight. The first prelim will now start at 2pm EST.

The UFC returns with a 10 fight card headlined by a five round main event in the women’s strawweight division between Mackenzie Dern and Marina Rodriguez.

The action gets started early at 1:30pm EST and streams on ESPN+.

Make sure to sign up for our Mo Sports Premium Discord chat as I’ll post my weigh-in thoughts, drop any breaking news and I’m always available to answer your last minute questions.

Mackenzie Dern (-180) vs. Marina Rodriguez (+155)

This week’s main event is a pivotal matchup in the women’s strawweight division between Mackenzie Dern and Marina Rodriguez.

Dern has won four in a row and six of seven since joining the UFC. Earlier this year, she submitted Nina Nunes with an armbar in the first round for her fourth submission win in the UFC. Her lone loss came by unanimous decision to Amanda Ribas.

Rodriguez has won back to back fights, a five round unanimous decision over Michelle Waterson and a second round knockout of Amanda Ribas. Prior to that, Rodriguez suffered the only loss of her career by split decision to Carla Esparza. She’s 4-1-2 in the UFC overall, drawing with Randa Markos and Cynthia Calvillo.

The winner of this fight will put their name in the mix for a strawweight title shot in the near future. Dern is an elite grappler, while Rodriguez has proven to be a sharp and dangerous striker. However, Rodriguez’s biggest weakness has been her defensive wrestling and grappling. Dern isn’t a great wrestler, but the minute this hits the mat Rodriguez is in serious danger. Dern has improved enough as a striker that she should be able to eventually close the distance and score a takedown or just pull guard.

25 minutes is a long time for Rodriguez to not make a mistake. If she can’t seriously hurt Dern on the feet early, it’s only a matter of time until Dern locks something up on the ground.

PREDICTION: Dern by first round submission

Randy Brown (-235) vs. Jared Gooden (+190)

In the co-main event, Randy Brown takes on Jared Gooden in the welterweight division.

Brown has won three of his last four and finished his opponent in those wins. Most recently, he submitted Alex Oliveira in the first round with a one-arm rear naked choke. Brown is 7-4 in the UFC with five finishes, three by submission. He’s been finished in three of those four losses, twice by knockout.

Gooden picked up his first win in the UFC last time with a first round knockout of Niklas Stolze in just 68 seconds. There was a wild set of circumstances leading up to that fight as Gooden took the fight on just a few days notice. The fight was temporarily cancelled on the day of the fight after a false positive test for COVID-19, but was then allowed to go on. Prior to that, Gooden had suffered back to back unanimous decision losses to Abukubar Nurmagomedov and Alan Jouban. Gooden is 18-6 overall with 14 finishes, eight by knockout. Five of his six losses have come by decision.

I was never high on Brown, but he continues to prove me wrong. He’s a long fighter at 6’3″ with a 78 inch reach and he uses it well. Brown’s strength is as a striker, but he has sneaky grappling skills. Gooden is a solid fighter. He’s a powerful striker and has some wrestling skill. He’s proven to be pretty durable, but he does absorb a lot of strikes.

This should be a competitive striking match, but I have to favor Brown due to the defensive metrics. Brown isn’t much of a wrestler, but I think he could land a takedown or two if he tried and Gooden hasn’t shown much off his back in the UFC.

PREDICTION: Brown by decision

Matheus Nicolau (-200) vs. Tim Elliott (+170)

Matheus Nicolau returned to the UFC this year after nearly three years away from the promotion, picking up a split decision over Manel Kape. Nicolau won his first three fights in the UFC and then was knocked out in the first round by Dustin Ortiz. With the UFC’s flyweight division on life support, Nicolau returned to the regional scene and picked up two wins. He’s 16-2-1 overall with nine finishes, five by submission.

After losing three straight fights, Tim Elliott has won back to back unanimous decisions over Jordan Espinosa and Ryan Benoit. Elliott is just 6-9 in the UFC, but he had a nice run on season 24 of “The Ultimate Fighter” that led to him earning a title shot against then UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Five of Elliott’s six wins have come by decision. In those nine losses, he’s been submitted four times and dropped five decisions.

Nicolau started off strong against Kape and had to dig deep in the third round to walk away with the decision. He’s a promising talent at flyweight, while Elliott has a lot of tread on the tires and is nearing the end. Elliott is a tough test for weaker grapplers, but Nicolau is not that. Nicolau is a better striker and he could probably have success taking Elliott down if he tries. Elliott’s best chance is to make this fight ugly, but he can’t push a frantic pace like he has in the past.

PREDICTION: Nicolau by decision

Sabina Mazo (-170) vs. Mariya Agapova (+150)

Sabina Mazo is coming off her second loss in the UFC, a unanimous decision to Alexis Davis, after rattling off a three fight winning streak. Mazo is 3-2 in the UFC and 9-2 overall with six wins coming by decision.

Mariya Agapova was on the receiving end of one of the biggest upsets in UFC history in her last fight. As a -1400 favorite over Shana Dobson, Agapova gassed badly in the second round and was finished with ground and pound. She’s also 9-2 overall with seven finishes, four by submission.

Mazo came to the UFC with a fair amount of hype, but hasn’t lived up to it so far. She’s still a solid fighter though and I’m confident in her here over Agapova. She’s faced some stiff competition and fights hard for three rounds, something we don’t know if Agapova can do. It’s a really bad look when you can’t beat Dobson and I know you can’t rely on MMA math, but Mazo dominated Dobson.

Agapova getting booted from American Top Team for being crazy and her subsequent gym hopping is a huge red flag. Until proven otherwise, she’s nothing but a front-runner so Mazo should dominate this fight, possibly getting a late stoppage if Agapova gasses badly again.

PREDICTION: Mazo by decision

Phil Hawes (-305) vs. Deron Winn (+240)

Since getting knocked out in the second round by Julian Marquez on the Contender Series, Phil Hawes has won seven straight fights, including three in the UFC. Most recently, he grinded out a unanimous decision over Kyle Daukaus. He’s 11-2 overall with nine finishes, seven by knockout.

Deron Winn is 2-2 in the UFC so far. He has sandwiched unanimous decision wins over Antonio Arroyo and Eric Spicely in his UFC debut with a split decision loss to Darren Stewart and a third round rear naked choke submission loss to Gerald Meerschaert. Winn is 7-2 overall with four wins by decision and three by knockout.

Hawes will have a six inch height and a seven and a half inch reach advantage over Winn. Both guys have strong wrestling backgrounds with Hawes being the far more dangerous striker. Cardio was a major concern for Hawes, but he showed he could use his wrestling to ride out decisions against Nassourdine Imavov and Daukaus. Even though Hawes has shown improved cardio, I still have concerns if he’s forced to wrestle for prolonged periods with Winn.

Hawes has the power to knock anyone out early, but I have doubts he can out-wrestle Winn the longer this fight goes. Winn is a solid underdog here, but I’m going to roll dice that his wrestling will be enough to pull off the upset.

PREDICTION: Winn by decision

Chris Gutierrez (-250) vs. Felipe Colares (+200)

Chris Gutierrez is unbeaten in his last five fights since being submitted in the second round by Raoni Barcelos in his UFC debut. He’s won four fights, three by decision, and fought to a draw with Cody Durden. His most recent victory is a unanimous decision over Andre Ewell.

Felipe Colares defeated Luke Sanders by unanimous decision in his last fight to even his UFC record at 2-2. Prior to joining the UFC, Colares scored seven finishes in eight fights, five by submission.

This fight pits the striking, mainly kicks, of Gutierrez versus the grappling of Colares. Gutierrez isn’t the most active striker, but he’s very effective with his leg kicks and even stopped Vince Morales with them. Colares is a good grappler, but he’s not a great wrestler although he will aggressively pursue the takedown. Colares also absorbs almost twice as many strikes as he dishes out.

Gutierrez’s defensive wrestling isn’t the greatest so that is a clear path to victory for Colares. However, Colares is so stiff on the feet that I’m expecting Gutierrez to eat up his lead leg, which will compromise his ability to wrestle. Another leg kick TKO wouldn’t surprise me, but I see Gutierrez winning a comfortable decision.

PREDICTION: Gutierrez by decision

Alexandr Romanov (-675) vs. Jared Vanderaa (+475)

Alexandr Romanov remained undefeated in his last fight, squeaking out a technical split decision over Juan Espino. Romanov is 14-0 overall with thirteen finishes, nine by submission. Ten of his fourteen wins have come in the first round.

Jared Vanderaa earned his UFC contract with a first round finish via ground and pound over Harry Hunsucker. He made his UFC debut against Sergey Spivak and was stopped with ground and pound in the second round. In his most recent fight, Vanderaa defeated Justin Tafa by unanimous decision. He’s 12-5 overall with ten finishes, seven by knockout. He’s been finished in three of his five losses, twice by submission.

Romanov is a massive favorite here and rightfully so. He’s a physical force and once he grabs a hold, his opponent usually goes for a ride where Romanov will attack with aggressive ground and pound or submissions. Cardio is a concern as it was a factor in his last fight against Espino and he was quite lucky to be gifted the decision. Vanderaa is a fairly low level lumbering heavyweight and his best chance to win this fight is to weather the early storm and drag Romanov into deep waters.

Heavyweight MMA can be unpredictable and sloppy at times, but I’m pretty confident that all it will take is one takedown for Romanov to finish this fight.

PREDICTION: Romanov by first round submission

Damon Jackson (-180) vs. Charles Rosa (+155)

Damon Jackson returned to the UFC a little over a year ago on just a few days notice and scored a shocking third round submission via guillotine choke over Mirsad Bektic. However, in his next fight Jackson was brutally knocked out in the first round by Ilia Topuria. In five UFC appearances, Jackson has mustered one win. He’s 18-4-1 overall with 17 wins by finish, 14 by submission. He’s been finished in all four of his losses, three by knockout.

Charles Rosa is coming off a split decision win over Justin Jaynes in his last fight and improved his UFC record to 5-5. The win kept Rosa’s trend of alternating wins and losses inside the Octagon alive. Rosa has three wins by decision and two by submission, while four of his five losses have come by decision.

This is a battle of grapplers pitting the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt of Rosa against the purple belt of Jackson. Neither fighter is a great offensive or defensive wrestler, but Jackson seems like the better “fighter” of the two. Rosa just lacks the athleticism to succeed against top fighters and while Jackson is not that, I still favor him to win by landing the more impactful strikes and possible takedowns.

PREDICTION: Jackson by decision

Lupita Godinez (-280) vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez (+225)

Lupita Godinez was originally set to face Sam Hughes, but after Hughes had to withdraw she’ll now face UFC debutante Silvana Gomez Juarez on less than a week’s notice.

Godinez made her UFC debut against Jessica Penne, but lost a contentious split decision. She’s 5-1 overall and was the LFA strawweight champion prior to joining the UFC. Four of her five wins have come by decision with the other coming by submission.

Juarez was set to compete on next week’s episode of the Contender Series, but now she gets the early call-up. She’s 10-2 with eight finishes, six by knockout. Her two losses are to UFC veterans Ariane Lipski by unanimous decision and Poliana Botelho by retirement after the fourth round.

Juarez is primarily a striker, while Godinez comes from a wrestling background but also likes to strike. I thought Godinez should have gotten the nod against Penne, but spent too much time with Penne on her back. That shouldn’t be an issue here and Godinez should strike her way to a decision with the ability to mix in takedowns if she chooses.

PREDICTION: Godinez by decision

Steve Garcia (-320) vs. Charlie Ontiveros (+250)

Kicking off the card is a lightweight bout between Steve Garcia and Charlie Ontiveros.

Garcia made his UFC debut against Luis Pena, but lost by unanimous decision. Since then, he’s withdrawn from scheduled bouts with Peter Barrett and Charles Jourdain. He’s 11-4 overall with eight wins by knockout and three by decision. Three of his four losses have come by decision.

Ontiveros made his UFC debut on short notice last year against Kevin Holland at middleweight, but was forced to verbally submit after suffering a neck injury during a slam. Ontiveros has been a career welterweight, but now he’ll make his lightweight debut. He’s 11-7 overall with six finishes, four by knockout. He’s been finished seven times by knockout, four in the first round.

Garcia prefers to strike and has good boxing skills. He has good cardio as well and tries to drown his opponents with volume and also attacks the body which I love. Ontiveros also prefers to strike, but he’s more of a kicking based fighter. Neither fighter really looks to grapple, but Garcia probably has the edge there.

Ontiveros is not a UFC caliber fighter and I’m expecting Garcia to walk right through him here, given Ontiveros’ durability issues and tendency to wilt when the going gets tough.

PREDICTION: Garcia by first round knockout

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